Wednesday, December 31, 2008

WNBP: A Year In Bullet Points

Well, here we are.  It is Wednesday night, normally the time for a nice random look at the first half of the week. Yet it is also the last few hours of 2008.  I suppose it seems appropriate to do, not just a bullet point presentation of the day, but also of the last 364 of 'em!  Let's see what tidbits come to mind...

*The whole '08 thing began with me trying to come to terms with the devastating loss of my Smaller, Less Fluffy Kitty.  Even having a month to accept this eventuality, I was unprepared for how painful it was going to be.

*December 26th may have come and gone last week without my commenting on this sad anniversary, but rest assured...

I spent a great deal of time looking longingly at a small urn and remembering.

*Up until I lost someone who had been a part of my life every single day for 17 years, I failed to understand that the word, "grieve" is a verb.  It is something you do.  And it is something you do hard.  

*However, under the watchful and supportive eye of the Big, Fluffy Kitty, I began to heal.

She was most attentive.

Sometimes a bit too attentive.  She was lonely without her sister and nemesis.

*Six months later, I finally felt ready to visit with some kitties at the local animal shelter.

*Just to look, mind you.  I really felt it best to take this process one step at a time...

The Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty found me within fifteen minutes.  He was home in under an hour.

*Suddenly, I found myself smiling again.  I even began to laugh!

It was sort of unavoidable.  The AGK is possessed of an indomitably cheerful spirit and is a true lover of life.

*About half-way through the school year, I learned that I was to be transferred in September.  Someone was going to have to take The Bad Job At The Middle School Where All Heck Had Broken Loose And Where No One Else Was Willing To Work.  That someone was going to be me and miracles were fully expected.

*I'm told I've managed a few miracles.  Nice to hear...

*Just before the end of the school year, I was also told that I was to be traveling to Bad Job At The Middle School without my beloved Cheerful Teaching Assistant.  

*This decision was made in full defiance of the fact that she was the only teaching assistant who was willing to go to TBJATMS cheerfully and without complaint.  It seemed to make more sense to send two less-than-cheerful people over there to assist me because I might not have enough to do after all the miracles were wrought.

*They are coming along nicely.  I count that as one of the miracles performed since September...

*During my summer vacation, I knit my first ever honest-to-God sweater since starting the blog!  

*We owe this particular miracle to the wise words of Elizabeth Zimmerman and her percentage system as well as to the nice people at the local Dollar Store.

Give me a break!  Every other sweater I'd tried since starting the blog had gone down in flames.  I wasn't going to risk good yarn on this experiment!  Dollar Store yarn doesn't mind being put in the line of fire.  

*In fact, I suspect that Dollar Store yarn might actually like fire being as it is made of weird stuff that is probably flammable...

*I learned how to make cheese.  

*I have no idea why I wanted to make cheese.  It's just one of those things.  Sometimes I get a bee in my bonnet...

*Over the school vacation in April, I had to come to terms with the fact that my beloved truck was no longer able to be repaired.  At least not on my budget.  

*A new car was chosen.  

*There have been issues with that one, too.  But they are issues of a far less expensive variety at this point, so we are calling the decision the right one.

*Unlike the truck, nothing has exploded while I try to make my way to work in the morning. 

*Exploding has shown itself to be a less than desirable quality in a motor vehicle.  At least as far as I'm concerned.

*I don't want to speak for everyone regarding vehicular combustion.  That seems presumptuous.  

*In November, I donned a dress for the first time in fifteen years.  Not just a with a full length skirt with a matching strapless top and which sported a sweetheart neckline.  There was a coordinating shrug and sash to go with it as well.  

*It was a sacrifice, but worth it.  

*Baby Brother Sheep's wedding was beautiful and, in one fell swoop, I got a new sister, a niece and a great nephew.  

*The latter has managed to disprove my long-standing belief that I am not a "baby person."  My Lord, this kid is a cutie!!!

*Parents of daughters aged one and under, beware!  Great Nephew Sheep is a charmer capable of wooing even the most hardened of hearts!  

*I also watched more zombie movies than is good for a person, however I prefer to think of them as "training films."

*When the impending zombie apocalypse finally does manifest itself, I can write off all those DVDs as a business expense.

*You know that the government is going to turn to me when no one else knows what to do and everyone is thinking that they can all just live at the mall like in the movies.

*We can't all live at the mall.  Or at Costco.  Or Wal-Mart.  The government is going to need someone to point this out.

*I maybe also spent a good part of the year thinking about stuff like that when I should have been being a more productive person or cleaning the oven...

2008....was it a good year or a bad year?  I suppose that, in the end, you can only say that it was.  Most years are like that, I think.

And what do we say to 2008?  Well, I think I'll leave that to a hero of mine from days gone by.  Who better than Patty Smyth to bid a fond farewell to The Year That Was?

Happy New Year Everyone!!!


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Knowledge Is Good

I know, I know...I'm late posting this tonight.  I further know that this is highly irresponsible blogging behavior.  But I have also gained a lot of other knowledge today and I hope to make up for my lack of attention to detail by sharing with you all I have learned.  If nothing else, you will all be filled to the brim with new information and that will maybe distract you from everything else.

Today I learned that if your gas cap is on slightly askew and if you let the tank get too low on fuel it can cause a certain sensitive-to-the-point-of-needing-medication-and-intense-therapy-sensor in your car to panic.  It will frantically turn on your "check engine" light on Christmas day and lead to your saying all sorts of words, most of which will begin with the word, "mother" and will have nothing whatsoever to do with your maternal lineage.  

I learned that I am one of the last six people on earth who didn't already know this and that I am maybe a little prone to overreacting when I see a picture of an engine flashing at me.  However, in my defense, it should be pointed out that the last two times I have seen a picture of a flashing engine an explosion has followed.  I have also had to write thousands of dollars worth of checks.  You can see how I might need to invoke all those mother-y sorts of words.

I now know that when I take my car to the garage for the third time in a month and after having replaced more parts on it than should be required in our six month relationship, I am a little cranky.  I may also have a tendency to imply that I have had conversations with persons who work in or around the Office Of The Attorney General.  

I am now aware that implying such things seems to result in a great deal of auto repair.  Scores of mechanics will suddenly take great interest in my vehicle.  It does not matter that I am really far too lazy to bother with tracking down People In Authority Who Might Want To Investigate This Situation or that I am non-confrontational to the point of being downright wimpy.  Frankly, I never even really said that I'd taken such steps.  But the implication is apparently enough to inspire the mechanics to do great things, check everything twice and replace parts that I'd not even considered replacing.  They will do this under the auspices of a non-existent warranty and for a total cost of under $75.00.

The downside to this, I learned, is that all this attention to detail is a bit time consuming and that it will mean I will be without a car for most of the day.

I know more than I ever did before how much I needed a night out with my fellow knitters at Chicks With Sticks.  Getting out of the house after days of laying about tossing chocolates down my gullet was the best thing for me.  

I am now fully aware of how delicately sharing my distaste for public restrooms can lead to a more in-depth discussion of certain bodily functions and how they can affect such things as vacations and honeymoons.  I also learned that I can knit pretty well through this sort of conversation if I just keep my head down and focus.  

I also learned that it is best to accept responsibility for these conversations, especially when I am really the one that started it in the first place.

I discovered how an innocent exploration into the subject of food storage and how best to remove the air from freezer bags can lead to dark places.  There may suddenly be vaguely disturbing references to chickens and how best to treat them.  It seems that I am also a little more adept at the use of double entendre than I thought...

Lastly, I learned that an extra big bottle of Mountain Dew purchased at 9:30 p.m. from a handily located convenience store tastes better than anything else.  I maybe sort of already know that, but it is good to have it confirmed.  It is so good to be a grown-up!!!

So there you go.  All my knowledge of the day condensed into an easily digestible format and presented for your learning pleasure.  I hope that it helps you to forgive me just a bit for the lateness of my posting.

Now I'm off to learn more about some of that Christmas candy that is still leftover from my days of noshing.  I'll let you know if I come up with any new insights...


Monday, December 29, 2008

A Spinning Dervish

The Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty is most decidedly a morning person.  Morning feline?  Whatever...

The point is, that when we all get up to face the day and enjoy some nice, crunchy treats, he sees this as the signal to begin The Great Festive Romp.  I have learned to watch where I step.  He is a big boy and very solid.  You never know when he will race over to place his girth directly in your path and I can guarantee you that he will not be the one to fall over.  

He seems to be even more invigorated by school vacation days.  It took him a while to catch onto the fact that my moving towards the door means that I am going away but once he did, he began doing everything in his power to try and convince me to either stay home or take him along.  His seeing that I am now remaining home rather than grabbing bag, keys and travel mug has lent an added air of joy to the mornings.

Today's exhibition was particularly energetic.  I fear that my downstairs neighbors may have lost a ceiling fixture or two.  I feel badly about that, but there was no way I was going to intervene.  Did I mention that he is very big and rather solid?  If the AGK has decided to declare his joy via leaping and rolling, then so be it.  

I did, however, attempt to capture some of the action.  This was all I could get:

The AGK scooting around in his Dollar Store Cat Cave.  This was the moment when he finally decided to poke his head out rather than skid blindly around the living room heedless of any other household residents.  Or furniture...

Startled by the flash and suddenly realizing that I had cracked open a window to catch some of the unseasonably warm breezes, he thundered over to investigate.  In the process, he careened into the propane heating unit and sent the cover to the controls flying.  This is the sort of thing I would normally step right up to repair before any curious kitties decide to start fiddling with the heat settings, but it seemed best to just huddle on the sofa in mortal terror until he was finished with his observation of the outside world.

You'd have done the same and you know it...

The good thing about the morning romp is that it takes some energy and even the Mighty AGK is going to run out of steam eventually.  He played himself out after another hour or so and repaired to the boudoir to rest.

He laid his weary, gi-normous head upon the Kitty Nappin' Mat that Mommy Sheep got him for Christmas and was down for the count.

He slept so deeply that I actually felt the need to check for breathing.  Rest assured, the AGK is alive and well and probably almost back to a full charge.  He'll be ready to go come dinner time.

His napping allowed me to finally get back to vacationing in earnest.  After taking a moment to piece together the heater, I got down to the business at hand.  I'd promised myself that I'd do some spinning during this vacation.  However, due to an ill timed bout of back strain, I was a bit late getting to it.

It's a stupid story and hardly bears repeating.  It all boils down to being too old to lift the sorts of things I seem to believe I can lift but somehow managing to get away with just a bit of soreness.  Then going out in the cold without a proper jacket, shivering violently and really hurting myself.  Yes.  That's right.  You heard me.  I shivered too hard and hurt myself.  Shut up.  It's not funny.  

I can still hear you.  I said it's not funny!!!

Thanks to a weekend of heat packs and a great deal of complaining, all is well with the back now.  I pulled out that Shetland Lamb that Cathy sent me so many moons ago and spent a pleasant afternoon making yarn happen.


I really hate to set deadlines for myself during vacations.  It seems wrong to force myself to adhere to a schedule when I already have to do that during my working hours.  But I honestly think I can finish up most of this if I stay the course.  I'd like to think so anyway.  I've enjoyed processing and spinning this fleece more than I can say, but I think it is time for it to be actual, honest-to-goodness yarn rather than just something-more-along-the-lines-of-conceptual yarn.  I'd also like to knit something with it.  

Perhaps a propane heater cozy of some sort?  I have a week of vacation now and two more throughout the course of the school year.  I don't know as this particular household appliance can take much more abuse...


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Excuse Me While I Mop Up The Drool...

I'm no doctor.  I do not claim to have advanced medical knowledge or anything.  A Doctoral degree takes a really long time to get and I simply do not have the patience for that sort of nonsense.

I do, however, have a Master's degree.  That counts for something, I should imagine.  It didn't take as long to get that as a PhD would have and I really needed something to hang on the wall to cover up a nail hole.  I also watch a great deal of television and there are lots of doctors to be found there.  I feel like I can speak with some authority regarding the workings of the human body.

It is with this esteemed background that I report to you the effects of the holiday on all systems involved in making us walk upright and continue breathing.  I am a little hazy on the details at this point, but I estimate that I have been pretty much sprawled on the couch and noshing on Straight-From-The-Stocking-Chocolates since Thursday.  By my calculations, that is about six months.  

The results have been shocking.  I believe that my blood has taken on the consistency of chewy caramel and that my brain is now almost 67% nougat.  My movements have slowed to the point where most people think I am actually standing still.  Some believe I am a street performer of some sort and are willing to throw change at my feet.  That is nice of them, but medical attention would probably be more appreciated right now.  I don't think a human being can continue to live like this.  I can only hope that I go into some sort of suspended animation like a tick and can maybe be revived at a later date.

The day started out fairly well.  I made it to the grocery store.  I found my way back home and even put most of the stuff away before the lethargy hit me full force.  That was the end of me.

I brought a full two liter bottle of soda with me to the sofa because I found the thought of pouring a single serving to be simply too much to contemplate.

I sat in one position for so long that I actually gave myself a headache.  It was not a comfortable position either.  Nor was I knitting at the time, so I don't even have that to account for the neck strain.  I just couldn't find the will to move.

Seeing that temperatures were in the fifties and wondering if perhaps there was some sort of gas leak in the place, I opened a window for some fresh air.  I had to take a nap after that.  

The window is still open.  It has gotten chilly but my limbs will not move enough to carry me over to where I need to be in order to close it.  And even if I got there, I don't know if I have the strength in my chocolate-dipped muscles to perform the necessary closing actions.

It occurred to me that I would really have to work up the will to do much of anything today.

It then occurred to me that I would need to work up the will to think about working up the will to do anything today.

The next occurrence involved realizing that I would need to work up the will to think about working up the will to think about working up the will to do anything today.

After that, I'm pretty sure I had a stroke or something because the next thing I knew it was 3:00 in the afternoon and I had no idea what happened to the previous two hours.

I need to face the facts:  I have been sitting for too long.  I have atrophied and have not even managed to do so in a comfortable position.  I don't want to be stuck in this position for the rest of my life.  I need to come up with a plan of some sort for the remainder of the week or else the nougat is going to completely take over my higher thought functions.  I'm really glad that the holiday candy at the grocery store was of the non-nougat variety.  It was half price and I would have bought it anyway...

Only one thing happened today that even remotely peaked my interest.  It was the kind of thing that should have immediately caused me to go "Oh my goodness gracious!"  But it took me several minutes to really process what I was seeing.

The Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty is the recognized King Of The Recliner.  He claimed this piece of furniture pretty early in his transition to life here at the manse and no one thought to challenge it.  The Big, Fluffy Kitty will settle down there if he isn't around, but normally leaves him to it.

It's like his throne...

Today, after a morning spent bickering and hissing, we saw something a bit different.  It was enough to make even a logy Sheepie roll over and snag the camera to capture the moment.

The BFK joined her brother on the recliner.  Not touching him, mind you.  Cuz boys are icky and all that...

Maybe it was the soothing effect of the Christmas tree.  Perhaps it was the fact that that window was open and she was cold.  It could also be that the BFK realized that Mommy was rapidly petrifying and that the need for teamwork might be imminent.  The odds of getting the food bag open would be better if eight paws were on the job...

I can't blame her for being concerned.  Even that little blip in the routine and possible sign of the Apocalypse didn't really get me off the couch for any length of time.  I still think I can manage to get a can or two open for them tonight.  Then I will go to bed and rest up from all my sitting and breathing.  I have a big day tomorrow.

I'm going to try to sit in a new and comfortable position.  Maybe I'll even move to the recliner.  It seems to be the hot spot around here these days...


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Cold Hands, Warm Hearts

It was a rather odd sort of beginning to the school vacation this year.  The holidays just fell into a weird pattern.  I didn't exit the building until the afternoon of the 23rd and found myself scrambling on Christmas Eve to get everything done.  That was a bit of a hassle.

However, there is an upside to this.  With the Wild Yuletide Hustle behind me, I have all sorts of time to clean up the carnage, reflect on the joy of the season and revel in my new stuff.  I did pretty well for myself this year.  

A few years ago, I gave my mom a puzzle for Christmas.  I thought it might be a nice challenge for her and the subject matter (butterflies) was quite lovely.  The finished product was the size of a small parking lot, but as pretty as I thought it might be.  Being a good sort of Mom and not wanting to waste all that hard work, she affixed it with puzzle adhesive and Daddy Sheep built a special frame for it.

In gorgeous purpleheart wood, no less!  Not exactly the easiest wood with which to work, but certainly one of the most lovely.

The final result was stunning.  Getting it into the car was a bit of a trial, but worth the effort.  It is now hanging in my living room and its glory makes the rest of the place look a bit shabby.  

Oh, and it seems that Mommy Sheep has discovered the joy that is Franklin.

And learned that he sells stuff...

There were all sorts of goodies that came home with me that day.  Foodstuffs, baubles, new jammies and the like...and almost all of it is put away at this point.  That is something of a new record!  And I still have more than a week of vacation time left to me.  Even New Year's Day, which normally represents the day to start getting myself together for the start of school, will be a restful one.  I don't have to resume my regular duties until the 5th of January.  I have all the time in the world!!!

Note:  This is a dangerous mindset and I know it.  I don't have all the time in the world.  I have a week.  And a week can seem very short when you are pretending that it is forever and it suddenly ends, but let's not shatter my illusions right now, 'kay?  I'm happy.  

With all this time on my chilly hands, I couldn't help but think that I should tend to those frozen phalanges.  I hearkened back to last Christmas and remembered that I had cashed in a gift certificate to the Yarn Sellar shortly after that particular holiday.  And one of the things that fairly jumped into my bag without my even having to encourage it at all was a bit of Malabrigo.  I'm a Sheepie with time to kill.  I can spend a day or so making some squooshy Malabrigo into something to keep me warm 'n cozy!  I don't even need to ask permission!  I know the perfect pattern for such a thing!  

The Maine Morning Mitts!!!!!

Off the hand, these look rather small, but that works for me.  I have small hands and like a snug fit in a mitt.  I also seem to have misplaced one and half pairs of MMMs.  That leaves one mitt and this does me very little good, really.  I needed another pair.  I also seemed to be feeling an irresistible urge to use that Malabrigo.  I'd never knit with it before, but I'd heard good things.

Second Note:  All those good things were very, very true.  This is the most bestest yarn!!!!  It took less than a skein to knit the pair and there is enough left over for some smallish mittens.  Again, since I have smallish hands and love the snug, this all works out.  

Yet Another Note:  Malabrigo is dangerous.  You suddenly want to knit sweaters out of it.  You want to slipcover your sofa in it.  You want to make a full suit out of it and wear it for the rest of your life.  This is not a cost-effective method of knitting.  You will lose your home and have to live in your car.  Granted, you will be very warm and cozy out there what with all the Malabrigo.  But I still suggest you use some restraint...

If you need me, I'll just be sitting over here admiring my new art, snuggling with the Malabrigo, noshing on Christmas chocolate and marveling over how much time remains to me before I must work for a living.  It's probably a good thing I got all that cool stuff for Christmas.  I won't have to shop for a while.  

And I must be saving my pennies so I can knit up that Malabrigo jumpsuit...


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Wrap-up...or is that "unwrap?"

Christmas '08 is well and truly done for The Family Sheep.  As holidays go, it was a good one!  There were the usual little mishaps that occur along any Yuletide Highway, I suppose.  The challa went into the oven at a rather late hour and while I was still trying to festoon the last of the gifts with ribbons and wrapping.  This probably accounts for the somewhat crispy outer coating.  I simply called it Blackened Cajun Challa and declared it "good."

We will not even think about the vast mixture of cultures and belief systems involved in this process.  It is confusing.  

In my haste to get to Mommy and Daddy Sheep's house for breakfast, I managed to forget the gift for  Sarge The Very Scary Teacup Terrier And Favorite Widdle Doggy Nephew.  Happily, he had other plans for the day and didn't join us for the family festivities.  He doesn't need to know that I forgot.  I'll drop it off next week and tell him that I wanted to wait and see his gorgeous face when he opened it.  

But more went well than went wrong and that is the very definition of a good holiday.  I managed to finish up the mittens I'd been frantically knitting for Daddy Sheep at what can only be described as The Very Lastest Of Minutes.

Apparently, the trick is to announce that you are not going to finish them in time and have given up.  Suddenly, mittens happen.  It's like magic...

Wonderful gifts were given and received by one and all.  In fact, there was something of a "first" for me this Christmas.  I have been spinning for a number of years and have often been gifted with fiber.  However, it has always been handed to me by a fellow whirler of the wool.  Non-spinners never give fiber as a gift as a rule, I've found.  They fear that they will make some sort of mistake being that they don't necessarily understand the whole process.  But my new SIL is made of sterner stuff.  She took the leap and included a bit of the woolly goodness in my gift box.  She casually said that it was something she'd seen at a craft fair a while back and that she'd thought of me immediately.  Unspun wool fiber from a non-spinner.  That would have been enough of a gift simply because of its sheer thoughtfulness.  But that's not all...

People, this was alpaca.  A non-spinner bought me alpaca because she thought it might be the right thing.  We seriously love that Baby Brother Sheep brought this one into the family!

There was so much more to love about the day.  But Christmas has a way of being lovable and exhausting at the same time.  I'm tuckered out from all the merriment.  I must rest, not to mention put away all the new stuff that came home with me.  Why don't I leave you with a little holiday gift from the good people at Folger's coffee?  This has been my all-time favorite seasonal commercial since before forever and, sadly, is one that I did not see this year at all.  



Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"The Minds" On Christmas Eve

It is usually my custom to do something a little special for my Christmas Eve post.  I didn't want to just wimp out and write up the usual Wednesday Night Bullet Post.  But I was simply at a loss as to what to write this year.  Nothing seemed to be jumping out at me...

However life has a way of taking care of these things.  Sometimes material just presents itself.  And, if you happen to be one of those people who lives with two warring factions within her own brain, well then the post simply jumps onto the screen!

Hysterical Mind and Rational Mind live together somewhat uneasily within my noggin.  While Rational Mind methodically goes about making sure that we manage to get out of bed each day and wear matching shoes, Hysterical Mind spends her days worrying about zombie attacks and suddenly running out of clean underpants.  It makes for fun times over here.  

Let's see how they are spending Christmas Eve this year:

We find Rational Mind bustling merrily about the kitchen and mixing up her third batch of sugar cookies.  She hums a little tune and thinks about how wonderful it is to finally have the shopping done and the presents wrapped.  Suddenly, the peaceful atmosphere is broken by the sound of something shattering and the gleeful cackle of what can only be Hysterical Mind.  Sighing, RM wipes her flour dusted hands on a towel and heads into the living room to see what her less logical counterpart is up to now.

Rational Mind:  I heard something break!  Are you OK?  Hey!!!  Those are our dinner plates!  Why are you putting them in a garbage bag?

Hysterical Mind: (gesturing with her hammer) So I don't cut myself, Silly!  Safety first, that's what I always say!  (she then begins hammering madly at the garbage bag.  The sound of all The Sheep Family Dinnerware smashing into a million pieces causes RM to wince)

RM:  Stop that!  I just washed those!  And what are we going to use for dinner now?  

HM:  Paper towels.  We're all set.  

RM:  That isn't really the point.  Why are you smashing our dishes, for crying out loud???

HM:  I'm going to spread the jagged shards under the windows.  

RM:  Wha...???

HM:  We just have to remember to wear our slippers.  Those things are wicked sharp!

(RM is speechless for a moment.  As she struggles to find something to say to this, she casts her eyes about the room.  What she sees is enough to finally bring back the words)

RM:  You've boarded up the windows.  And there is a baseball bat by the door...when did we get a baseball bat?  We don't play baseball.  We've never played baseball!  And is that barbed wire????

HM:  Yup.  We gotta fortify the place.  Take a look at this!  (Uses the hammer once again to direct RM's attention.  This time she is indicating the computer screen)

RM:  It's the NORAD site.  So?

HM:  This is the night where all must beware!  There is a prowler afoot!  And we are a fair maiden alone in this world, susceptible to intruders who might wish to threaten our fragile selves!  Steps must be taken!!!  Just look at this!  Even the government is watching this guy!!!

RM:  It's the Santa Tracker.  They just keep an eye on Santa.  It's no big deal.  They do it every year!

HM:  I know!  And yet they can't seem to catch the dastardly fiend!  He could be here any minute!  That's why I'm taking matters into my own hands!

RM:  It's Santa!  Santa Claus!  The guy who brings presents to all the good little boys and girls!

HM:  That's how he gets ya!  It's his gimmick.  He is going to break into our house and did I mention how we are like a fair maiden and whatnot?

RM:  I'm wondering if maybe you've developed something of a flexible definition of "fair maiden."  I'm not certain that the term can be stretched to include women approaching their mid-forties with sagging jawlines and a tendency towards brittle bones...

HM:  I am too a fair maiden!  I'm a hottie!  Who wouldn't want to break down the door for a piece of this!  (sticks out her ample derriere and gives it a hearty slap)

RM:  That hurt, didn't it?

HM:  No.  I'm young and fair.  Strong of bone and supple of skin, too.

RM:  Hah!  It did hurt!  You hurt your hip!!  Hah!!!

HM:  (Sticks out her tongue, whirls on her heel and limps over to the windows rubbing her sore hip.  She continues with her Home Security Measures.)

RM:  I like the barbed wired strung with the little blinking lights you got going on there.  It's very festive.  But I honestly don't think you have anything to worry about.  

HM:  Big man traveling around the world breaking into houses and using presents to lull people into a false sense of security?  And doing it according to some self-imposed schedule?Rituals...rules...a group of little henchmen doing the grunt work back at the hideout?  That is exactly the sort of thing the FBI teaches their agents to look for!

RM:  You've profiled Santa?  Seriously?

HM:  We fair maidens all alone in the world gotta have a plan...

RM:  Look.  Santa has been doing this since before forever.  For, like, a thousand years or something.  He has a good track record.  They call him "Saint" Nick, for heavens sake...

HM:  Immortal, you say?  Ohmigod!  That changes everything!  Santa isn't a man...he's a vampire!  He wants to eat our soul to preserve his endless existence!  It all makes sense!  He does travel only by night, now that I think of it!  I'll go get the garlic!

(races to the kitchen and returns with a little jar)

HM:  All I could find was garlic powder, but I'm pretty sure that will work.  Hold still and I'll sprinkle you.  Then you do me...

RM:  You are being ridiculous.  Santa is not a vampire.  He does not want to eat our soul.  Be logical.  It is obviously magic.  Sheesh...

HM:  Maybe.  But I'm not taking any chances.  Look at the computer!  He's getting closer every minute!!!  And you're out there baking cookies for him like it's perfectly normal to feed intruders!!!

RM:  I think I can settle this.  In our entire life, Santa has never once come here.  He always goes to Mommy Sheep's house.  And she has Daddy Sheep to protect her.  She'll be fine.  And this way we'll get our presents.  How does that work for you?

HM:  Hmmm...a mutually agreed upon and safe drop-off point.  That could work.  And this way I won't have to spend the night patrolling the perimeter.  I hate patrolling the perimeter.  The zombies are always somewhere right around the perimeter...

RM:  So it's settled.  No more of this nonsense.  Santa is a good man who brings us presents and, even if he wasn't, he isn't going to come here.  Are we all set?

HM:  Yup.  I'm good.  (begins dismantling the barbed wired barrier at the windows) But I'm thinking that maybe we don't need to put out any cookies for someone who isn't coming.  It seems a shame to waste them.  Why don't I just take those off your hands for you?

RM:  Sure, sweetie.  I'll go get you a plate...hey!  Wait a minute!  Was all this just a ploy to get into the sugar cookies?

HM:  Maybe....

I have no earthly idea how I am going to eat my Christmas Eve Frozen Pepperoni Pizza now that all my dishes have been sacrificed in the name of home security.  I'll figure something out, I suppose.  I guess I could just eat sugar cookies for dinner.  That might work and then I wouldn't have any dishes to wash.  

I trust that everyone is having a pleasant evening and that those of you who celebrate Christmas are readying yourselves for the big day.  I'm feeling pretty good about the whole thing.  In spite of HM's suspicions regarding the motivations of the Man In Red, I think I'm in good shape.  I've been really quite well-behaved this year, after all.

And I've been able to fall back on my "aren't I cute and see how I can make fake dimples" face for those times when I maybe needed to distract people from any poor behavior.

Yup.  I think I'm cleared for a pretty successful Christmas.  The challa is rising and should be ready for dinner tomorrow and almost all the presents are wrapped.  I'm a very good Sheepie!

How about you?

Season's Greetings to all and best wishes for a wonderful night.  And, if you are one of those who extends the invitation to enter, may Santa be very, very good to you!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I'm Gifted

The day before we set the children free for the holiday break can be a very, very, very, very loooooooong one.  Even if you rush them through their work in the days before this event so you can have fun activities, it can seem endless.  Even if half your class doesn't show up and it's mostly the kids from whom you will consider this their Christmas gift to you, the hours drip like cold molasses.  Even if people are generally in pretty good moods overall and willing to set aside the usual petty differences that permeate any school, noon will feel more like midnight.

Eventually, though, the day will finally come to its inevitable conclusion.  You might even rush it along a bit by considering the "end of the day" to really mean "after your last student has exited the building rather than the waiting for the last run of buses."  

It's not like it's my fault that none of my students are on the third trip.  Or that the secretaries are willing to enable me with this by asking only that I sign out for the day rather than wait until 3:00 officially arrives.

Frankly, I can't be blamed for leaving.  It's been a long time since I taught in a middle school and I guess I forgot how sad the snack options are at that level.  I've been at the elementary schools for a while and there are lots of parties and parent-donated goodies all over the place there.  Middle school?  Not so much.  I saw no reason to stay.

Besides, I'd done my good deeds and spread the holiday cheer.  The teaching assistants and the secretaries were gifted in a manner befitting their helpful status.  I decided that this year might be a good one to go a little "green" with the gift bags.  And who else but my favorite Dollar Store to help me in this endeavor?  

Cute little canvas totes for a buck a piece!  Got the ornaments there, too!

They were the perfect gift bags and can be easily reused.  Everyone was pleased with both the inside and the outside of their presents and, thus, I felt pretty much justified in starting the holiday break just as soon as my child-watching duties were finished.

I'd given some thought to heading down to The Yarn Sellar tonight to visit with a few Chicks With Sticks and enjoy some communal knitting.  However, the need to do some last minute holiday shopping got the better of me.  Fighting my way through the crowds and practically having to stake a claim to get a bit of wrapping paper was pretty much the end for me.  By the time I exited the store, I found myself out of goodwill for my fellow human beings and didn't feel that anyone really deserved further contact with me.  I'll make it down there next week.

In spite of my less than holly-jolly attitude towards the season, I still felt like I'd done rather well.  The shopping is now well and truly done.  If I can stay focused long enough to knit a couple of thumbs, I'll have another pair of mittens to toss someone's way on the 25th.  The staff at school were recognized for all their hard work and I was nice to the children all day long.  Even when they became bored with all the merriment and began to get fussy.  (which is not a pretty sight in a teenager...)

I couldn't help but think I deserved a little gift of my own.  It's been a while since I gave myself a present that didn't have some practical purpose.  While this wasn't exactly the one I wanted, it was still a little extravagance and something I've thought about getting.  I threw caution to the wind, ignored the fact that I have something similar, (if woefully outdated) and asked the nice lady to get one out of the display case for me.

Merry Christmas to me!!!!

I didn't even need to wrap it.  Although I might have liked one of those little tote bags...


Monday, December 22, 2008

The Facts As I See Them

There are two facts of which I'd like to make certain you are aware.  The first is this:

Between Friday night and Monday morning in excess of 20 inches of snow fell on my corner of the world.  For those of you who enjoy the convenience of the metric system of measurement, I'd be happy to do the conversion for you.  

Let's see...carry the 1...round up a bit...erase that part where you drew an angry-faced-snowflake...there!  I got it!  The correct answer is:  A WHOLE LOT!!!!

Oh, all right.  It's something like over 50 cm.  Which I think you will agree is, in fact, A WHOLE LOT!!!!!

The second fact I'd like to share is:

Delayed starts to the school day are a necessary thing.  If we cancelled school every time the morning drive was a bit dicey, we'd never get to the summer vacation part of the year that keeps us all happy and willing to remain bound by our contracts.  That said, they are also a bit of a nuisance.  

I spend a great deal of time following the announcement of a 2 hour delay trying to decipher the hidden message.  Are they telling me to stay home for two hours so that they can clear the roads for me?  Are they suggesting that I leave right now because it is going to take me two hours to get there?  What do they want from me????? is all about me.  At this point in our relationship, you still need to ask?  

These two facts, once combined, made for a charming start to the school day.  We will not even discuss the proximity of vacation and Christmas.  Those things simply added to the overall theme.  They lent a nice little extra touch of special-ness for those of us who somehow have to find a way to keep children engaged in the learning process before they leave us for their respective vacations.

I finally deciphered the delayed start code and decided that "they" were trying to tell me to split the difference.  I didn't race right out the door, but neither did I tarry.  I left an hour for road clearing, half an hour for coffee drinking and another half hour for finding my vehicle under all that snow.  

I'm glad that I cleared the car at least once yesterday.  Had I not done so, I fear that mine would have looked like my next door neighbor's.  His was just a big, white pile and not even recognizable as a motor vehicle.  All that snow and wind had simply buried it.  

As I slogged around my own car and up to my knees in the the white stuff, I was really in need of something to consider "good."  I was soaked to the skin by the time I'd managed to get most of the snow scraped away and seriously wishing I hadn't misplaced my second Maine Morning Mitt.  It also happened to be very, very, very cold.  Very.  Cold.

Just as I was about to forget all about my neighbor's car-masquerading-as-a-snowbank and consider myself the most woebegone individual on the planet, my other neighbor came out thinking that she might like to go to work.  She got stuck.  Couldn't even make it out of her own parking space.  I offered to help since my all-wheel-drive tank plowed through the snow without a problem.  But she said she was fine and that help was on the way.  

I think she was jealous of all my luck and feeling like we needed some space right about then.  I understood.  I felt the same way about all those people I saw driving on the Maine Turnpike who didn't have snow on their cars and who obviously have garages in which to put their vehicles....

I made it to work fairly easily, for all that.  There was a bit of a skid coming off the highway, but that was it.  The remainder of the shortened school day was spent sitting on the heater. (no mean feat, BTW, since it's angled and you have to brace your feet wicked hard!)  From there I could simply demand that the students bring me their work for assessment and approval since I wasn't planning on moving.  Did I happen to mention that it was very, very cold today?  Very.  Cold.

In closing, I'd like to leave you with a couple of predictions.  I firmly believe that they will soon be facts, but I hate to get overly confident about these things.  

Prediction The First:  Winter and I are not getting along very well.  I do believe that if I see one more flake fall from the sky I will go utterly, stark-raving mad and begin racing through the streets to the nearest courthouse in order that I might begin divorce proceedings from Winter.

Prediction The Second:  Once this whole holiday knitting for others business is over, I will be starting a pair of mittens for myself.  Divorce can take a while.  It will probably be Spring before I can get Winter to pack up his stuff and move out.  

I might need some mittens...


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happiness Found In A Snowbank

Suddenly, it's all Pollyanna all the time over here.  I seem to be able to find the joy no matter what the circumstances.  Yes, snow is falling so hard and fast that I fear I shall not be seen again until the Spring.  Yes, the management company in charge of all things "maintenance" for my condo association has, once again, chosen the wrong company to do the job.  The plows never came at all on Friday, nor on Saturday.  They arrived late this afternoon to clean up two days worth of snow and I quickly scampered out to move my vehicle so they could find pavement.  I watched them spend twenty minutes and use two trucks to clear the lot next to mine.  I then watched them make one pass across my lot, sit in the truck for five minutes doing nothing then drive away.

My space remains buried.  I hate them.  

But I still feel that luck is with me. I see so many things over which to smile today:

* If nothing else, I had nowhere to go so, other than driving around my condo complex trying to find a place to put my car while the plows didn't clear my parking space, I was spared being out in this mess.  

*I received a phone call from my great-uncle this morning.  Being in his nineties and very hard of hearing, talking on the phone is a little difficult for him so it was really a treat to hear from him.  He was concerned that he may have forgotten to send my Christmas card this year and wanted to make certain that I knew of his holiday wishes for me.  My uncle is one of those incredibly eloquent people who use the Maine accent to make the language a beautiful thing.  He is what you might call an Old World Gentleman and doesn't so much speak as he orates.  He also writes in that amazing old copperplate style.  Phone calls, Christmas cards...either one is a cool thing to receive.  Those who can communicate in this manner are fast becoming a thing of the past.  I'll enjoy it while I can.

*On the less sophisticated end of the spectrum, I discovered one of my favorite BBC series had a season up on Itunes for what I considered to be a reasonable price.  I decided to give myself a little early Christmas present and download to my heart's content! 

( I suppose I should be more embarrassed by my love of Little Britain.  I should also probably just apologize to everyone in the whole wide world for its very existence, let alone my being a fan.  Lines are crossed.  Flagrantly and with little regard for political correctness, I suppose.  But if a show is going to cross the line, then they'd better do it well and LB does.  There are very few shows that can actually make me do that thing where you laugh so hard it sounds like a bark and you even surprise yourself since you didn't see it coming.  I can't help it.  It's just funny in a Guilty Pleasure sort of way...)

Frankly, I can't seem to find the downside.  Even the fact that my car remains buried and that I am assuming the plow guys will show up at midnight expecting me to go back out there and move it again doesn't seem to bother me.  I feel like I am having a run of good luck.  I think I may have appeased Karma to some degree lately.  

It might have something to do with my Massive Mitten Production.

I am fully aware of the fact that my sudden need to knit mittens for the holidays is sheer folly at this  point.  I am not going to have enough mittens to give a pair to every person who crosses my mitten knittin' path.  I am not even going to have enough to give to the people for whom I thought mittens might make a good gift such as the school secretaries or my teaching assistants.  But I like to think that Karma is pleased with my giving it a go even if I am doomed to failure.  Maybe Karma is just feeling sorry for me.  Whatever.  I'll take the pity if that's what I need to not have to drive in the snow and have fun TV to watch.

I'm just going to keep knitting those mittens right up until the last minute.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll actually end up with more than I'd thought.  I'm definitely going to knit a pair for Karma, though.

There is a deal on a zombie DVD bundle I just saw online.  I'd kind of like for my luck to hold out just long enough to score that before it all runs out...


Saturday, December 20, 2008

For The Pugilist On Your List...

In an odd sort of way, my good fortune continues.  I say, "odd" because some of these gifts from heaven are of the left-handed variety, but still...  You take a gift and say a hearty thanks-so-very-much rather than you-could-have-done-better.

I'd kind of hoped for an early release day from school yesterday what with the first of the weekend storms rolling in.  But that didn't come to pass.  However, nothing really started happening until 2:00 and I was out the door by 2:30 so I didn't have to drive in much of anything too horrific.  Frankly, I hate driving in the snow about as much as I seem to hate working a full day...

I took the car in this morning for the brake work that was supposed to be taken care of last week but which was interrupted by the first of the series of storms that just keep pummeling us.  While I am grumpy about having to have the brakes fixed on a car that I have driven for a mere six months, the fact that they came in under the estimate was a bit of good news.  Plus, the service staff now hate the sales staff as much as I do at this point because they stored all their cars in the garage on the promise that they would be in by 7:00 this morning to remove them and then didn't.  The young woman manning the service desk who had to move all those cars back out to the lot all by herself agreed with my thoughts regarding the quality of the Secret Santa Gifts the sales staff deserve.  

When I arrived home, I found an email waiting for me from  It seems that they remembered my ordering history and those things over which I giggle and titter.  They were wondering if I might consider pre-ordering a video-on-demand rental from them for New Year's Eve.  As this was a movie with a very limited release schedule and not yet available on DVD, I was thrilled to check a hearty YES in the reply box.

For the record, I don't normally use Amazon for movies.  They are fabulous for music downloads but otherwise hate all things Mac.  Movie downloads are not compatible which leaves streaming.  Amazon, it seems, finds my DSL connection to be rather slow according to their lofty standards and periodically reminds me of this fact in their video dashboard.  But I forgive them.  They somehow knew that I would want to watch They Call Me Bruce on New Year's Eve and remembered to include my Mac-ish self on their invite list.  Me 'n Amazon are cool...

With all that good fortune going on, it seemed in my best interest to make good on that promise to reknit the mittens I'd somehow managed to knit in two different lengths.  At this time of the year it is not only Karma who is watching after all.   Santa Claus is also casting his gaze about looking for no-goodniks.  Best to do the right thing.

And so I did.  The second mitten was reknit to length and, may I just say, at great cost to my poor hands.  Wrangling a double strand of thick lopi on size 8 needles was simply grueling.  You can imagine my dismay after noticing that I'd missed a loop while fastening off the first "good" mitten.  Taking it apart to snag that loose loop was a bit of a battle and some stitches were lost.  More with the painful reknitting...

But it was the right thing to do.  And now they are done.  They are also thick enough to qualify as boxing gloves should you happen to know anyone who needs some.

I call these the Drama Mittens.  Exaggerating?  Me?  Oh, I don't think so...

I think that Karma, Santa and any other Mystical Overseers Of Behavior and I are cool at this point.  I did the right thing.  I fought with yarn and had to use a crochet hook to effect decreases.  That makes us even-steven.  I no longer feel any guilt over taking advantage of recent opportunities.  

Meanwhile, the next of the Horrible-No-Good-Trying-To-Bury-Us-Snowstorms is gearing up and should be ready to dump more snow on top of the seven inches we got on Friday night.  We here at Survival Central have all been preparing in our own ways.  I finished up the grocery shopping as well as making sure that I have gifts for my staff on Tuesday.  The car is now equipped with working brakes and washed.  Knitting projects abound and I've got that book from the school library that I took out in spite of the fact that I know at least five million kids wanted it.  I'm all set.

The felines of the household prepared as only kitties can.  They are experts in this sort of thing.

The Big, Fluffy Kitty snagged the Nappin' Basket and remained firmly entrenched there for the day.

This would normally be something of an issue since the Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty tends to think of this as his spot.  But it all worked out...

He was otherwise occupied.  Those clean jeans I'd left on the bed weren't going to press themselves, after all.

It's all good over here.  The kitties are "helping," the car is braking and the internet is willing to provide me with a plan for ringing in the New Year.  If I just don't think about all that snow that is about to fall down on my head, then it's just about perfect!

I wonder if Karma is taking requests at this point...